How To Tell A True War Story Analysis

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Throughout Tim O'Brien's, “How to Tell a True War Story”, the concept of truth and how one tells a “true” war story is discussed. Several factors contribute to the “truth” of the stories the soldiers told; the madness of the war, the civilians back home who didn't experience war or understand that it was hell, and the indescribable ways the soldiers felt. O'Brien explains that people willingly accept the facts of what happened during a war but, what they don’t consider is the deception of these facts that change through people’s stories. All of these factors combined caused the soldiers to react to certain situations and tell stories differently. O’Brien’s stories characterize that “truth” isn’t always a straightforward concept; and that it can be revealed in many ways. It can be the narrator’s intention, to provide the truth but the person listening might find a different truth to the story.
O’Brien begins to describe the death of a fellow soldier Curt Lemon and how his best friend Rat Kelly dealt with his death. He explains that the two were playing catch when Lemon stepped on a booby trap and died. To deal with his pain from losing his best friend, Kelly shot a water buffalo thinking that by shooting the animal his pain would be relieved. Kelly wrote Lemon’s sister a letter to tell her “what a great brother she had (68). Lemon’s sister didn’t reply to the letter which hurt him even more. Kelly experienced a detachment between war and people that never experience. We get
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